In May 2006, Jason Raitz and I published an article series called “The Great Retreat Debate.” When the series was published it generated a fair amount of discussion as youth workers discussed the validity of retreats in their youth groups. We were both pleased with the debate and satisfied that the dialogue had gone as far as it needed to go.
Flash-forward to Christmas 2006. As I was finishing my Christmas shopping I started to receiving e-mails about the article I had written back in May. I quickly discovered that the Christian Camp and Conference Associationhad mentioned my article in their weekly newsletter that is mailed to camp ministry professionals with the headline “Anti-Camping Opinions Emerging.”
By Jason Raitz Let me cut right to the chase, I can’t imagine not incorporating retreats into our student ministry. How else can I say it? I will never kiss retreats good-bye. I have been a youth pastor for 11 years and in that time, retreats have provided more Ebenezer moments for our ministry than any other activity, program or event we hosted. Retreats that we have done have provided life-changing moments that have given students an opportunity to draw closer to God and to draw closer to each other.
It started as a snafu. Our large senior high ministry in the Chicago suburbs was scheduled to attend a retreat at Spring Hill camps in Northern Michigan. We had chartered a luxury bus for the trip and reserved 60 spots for our students. We planned to sell out all of our spaces quickly and anticipated calling the camp for a few more spaces as the retreat approached. But two months passed and only 45 students committed to going. We scratched our heads, lost a few thousand dollars, and figured it was a fluke. Surely it wasn’t the retreat center. There’s no way it could be anything but a fluke because retreats had been such a sure fire hit in the past. Something just must have not clicked, that’s why they didn’t come. At least that is what we told ourselves.